04-Oct-2008 -- As we (1) were in the vicinity for the National Conference on Geography Education; as it (2) is our tradition to visit a confluence during each annual NCGE conference, dating back to 2002's visit to 40 North 75 West, including boating on a choppy but deep blue Lake Tahoe, trekking through the backwoods of Alabama, wading through the Great Salt Lake marshes, and hiking the prairies of Oklahoma, involving such notable geographers as Shannon White, Barbaree Duke, and Mary Braccili; and as we (3) were teaching two full days of GIS and GPS workshops at this year's event, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect beginning to a week filled with geography and geotechnologies.
And so, as soon as we arrived at the Detroit airport and picked up our rental car, which we named "Cloud" due to its white color, we were soon traveling west on Interstate Highway 94. Just southeast of Ann Arbor, we took the US Highway 12 exit, and followed it southwest to Clinton, Michigan. Just west of Clinton, we turned south on State Highway 52. After less than 10 minutes, we crossed the intersection of Highways 50 and 52, where a restaurant lies on the southeast corner, and assembled our supplies. We continued on for a kilometer until we had crossed the 42nd Parallel.
We turned left, pulling into the driveway to the south of the parallel, and made a U-turn, carefully due to the fairly high traffic volume. We drove back to the driveway that was barely north of the parallel, to the house on the property we knew to contain the confluence point. We drove up the long path, parked, and knocked. We waited awhile and thought that nobody was home until we heard the sound of voices and then were rapidly approached by several dogs--at least four of them, I think, but I was a too nervous to count. Lilia, fortunately, is really good with animals, which no doubt ensured that we would live another day. We cautiously patted them while we were relieved to see people approaching behind the dogs. We then explained our mission to a man and his daughter, holding our breath. The man remembered the former visit, even though it had been years ago, and we had an amiable chat. They said it would be OK if we walked north of the electric fence, which I believed would get us within 100 meters of the point. We invited them to come with us and the daughter accompanied us.
We set off walking due east just to the north of the electric fence. It was a beautiful afternoon, the sun behind us, while we walked due east. The vegetation was about a half meter high, but nearly 1.5 meters high just to our left (north). After about 5 minutes, with about 25 meters left to the 84th Meridian, the mosquitos descended upon us quite viciously. I knew Lilia, being the sweet one, would be their favorite, but they were even landing on me. It made us appreciate our low mosquito count, by and large, in our home state of Colorado. The mosquitos forced us to keep our visit brief, but we also didn't want to disturb these folks unduly. In addition, some new calves and their mother cows were becoming a bit agitated. Once at the 84th Meridian, we were about 60 meters due north of the confluence.
The confluence lies in the field that is now occupied by new calves, a few months old. It was lying under cow-munched grass, only a few centimeters high. The temperature was 24 C (75 F) under clear skies; a perfect autumn day. I had been to the 43 North 84 West confluence a few years ago on a drizzly autumn day just one degree north of here. I also had stood on 84 West in Ohio, in Georgia, and in Costa Rica, way down at 10 North. I have been to 42 North many times before--in Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois, and Massachusetts.
I was amazed that we were only the second group of visitors to this point, as easy as it is to reach. True, it had taken us over an hour to arrive here from Detroit. For obvious reasons, everyone who visits needs to clear it with the landowners first, and we were very thankful to them. I had now amassed a tidy sum of 5 Michigan confluences. My friend Brian Lehmkuhle, track and field and engineering star of Aquinas College here in Michigan, would be proud, I am sure.
Due to the mosquitos, we spent about 7 minutes on the site, and then marched out the way we came in. We thanked the landowners and returned to our vehicle. We drove back north on Highway 52 and repacked the car, assembling the maps to our next destination--Cedar Point Amusement Park, Ohio. I made sure to keep these maps partly hidden, however, as the trip was a surprise for Lilia. She had no idea where we were heading next. At the intersection with Highway 50, we headed east to one of the prettiest Michigan towns I had ever seen--Tecumseh. The houses, the trees, and the lawns were all quite beautiful, speckled with ears of corn and pumpkins for the Halloween and Harvest season. We continued east to US Highway 23, then South to Toledo, and around the southern shore of Lake Erie to Port Clinton. This was indeed a wonderful way to begin the week of the geography education conference!